Like any part of the body, taking care of the vagina is essential, yet talking about vaginal health is still taboo and often associated with feelings of shame or embarrassment.
Vaginal health plays a crucial role in women’s health and wellbeing. Vaginal issues can have an impact on many aspects of a woman’s life. It can affect your fertility, your sex life, your self-esteem, and your relationship. An unhealthy vagina is often associated with a higher risk of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and vaginal infections such as vaginal yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
Read on if you want to know how to keep your vagina healthy and happy.

What is the vagina?

Before we talk about vaginal care, it is important to know what it is. Many people mistakenly believe that the vagina and the vulva are the same! What some people think is the vagina is actually the vulva. The vulva is the outer part of the female reproductive organs. It includes the inner and outer lips, clitoris, urethra, and vaginal opening. Meanwhile, the vagina itself is inside the body. It is a tube that connects your vulva with your cervix and uterus. The vagina is muscular, elastic with a soft lining that provides lubrification. It is about 8 cm long. The vagina is what babies and menstrual blood exit through.

What is a healthy vagina?

A healthy vagina has an acidic PH of around 4.5. It is rich with beneficial bacteria known as Lactobacilli. The Lactobacilli create an environment that keeps the number of pathogenic microbes under control. It also helps maintain vaginal health by producing peroxide hydrogen, which has cleansing and anti-infective properties. A healthy vagina also has a discharge. A healthy vaginal discharge depending on the menstrual cycle, can have a watery or stretchy consistency. The color can range from clear to whitish. A normal vaginal discharge usually has a slight scent that isn’t strong smelling.

Related: A Guide To Vaginal Discharge

Here are 7 steps to improve your vaginal health.

1. Do not douche

Douching is one of the top practices that badly affect the vagina. Douching is the process of washing out the inside of the vagina with water or other substances. This practice is widespread. In the United States, almost one in five women 15 to 44 years old douche. (1)
Douching impairs vaginal health because it washes away Lactobacilli, changes the acidity of the vagina, and therefore causes an overgrowth of harmful bacteria that can lead to vaginal infections. When it comes to vaginal hygiene, less is more. Your vagina cleans itself. All you have to do is wash your vulva with warm water when you bathe.

2. Always wipe front to back after using the bathroom

The bowel contains many harmless bacteria for the anus and rectum but can potentially cause problems to the vagina and urethra. For example, E Coli, which causes almost 90% of UTIs, often enters the urinary tract via stool. Women are more likely to develops UTI because of the female anatomy. Women’s urethra is closer to the anus, making it easier for E Coli to quickly spread to the urinary tract. Although you may not entirely avoid that bacteria in the anal region spread to the vagina and urethra, you can significantly reduce the risk by always wiping from the front to the back after using the bathroom.

3. Be careful about your underwear

Your underwear can significantly impact your vaginal health. Many studies have shown that synthetic fabrics are not breathable and trap heat and moisture, creating a perfect environment for yeast infections and other vaginal infections. For everyday use, you should go for comfortable cotton underwear. After a workout, you should not stay too long in wet underwear. Wash your underwear with fragrance-free soap.

Related: 8 Common Menstrual Hygiene Mistakes Women Make

4. Do kegel exercises

Your pelvic floor muscles should be part of your workout routine! The pelvic floor is a group of muscles located in your pelvis. It goes from the pubic bone to the tail bone. The female’s pelvic floor muscles act to support the bladder, the bowel, and the uterus. Kegel exercises involve contracting and relaxing the muscles of your pelvic floor.
Kegel exercises help tighten vaginal muscles and other muscles that support the bladder. It helps prevent urine leakage and improve vaginal lubrification and sexual arousal. Here is a step-by-step guide to performing Kegel exercises. (2)

5. Practice safe sex

Many Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) can affect the vagina. These STDs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, genital warts, syphilis, and HIV. Some STDs display no symptoms but can lead to serious health issues.

To practice safe sex, you should :

  • Always use condoms
  • Have regular screening when you have multiple partners
  • If you practice anal sex, always do it after vaginal sex or change the condom before going from anal sex to vaginal sex.

Peeing after sex may help flush the bacteria from the urethra. While it does not prevent STDs, it may help reduce the risk of UTIs.

6. Consider water-based lubricant

Insufficient lubrication during sex is often associated with discomfort or dyspareunia. It also increases the risk of getting UTIs and STDs, including HIV.
Low levels of estrogen are a leading cause of vaginal dryness. It can result from conditions such as aging, menopause, childbirth, and breastfeeding.
Using a lubricant during sex can help ease the discomfort and made it more enjoyable. However, you should be cautious about the type of lubricant you use. You should prioritize water-based lubricants specifically intended for vaginal use. The lubricant should also be free of perfumes, herbal extracts, or artificial colors that may lead to irritation.

Related:9 Possible Causes Of Dyspareunia In Women (Painful Sex)

7. Know when to see a doctor

Many symptoms could indicate a problem with your vaginal health. The most common symptoms include :

  • vaginal itching and swelling
  • abnormal smelly vaginal discharge
  • pain and discomfort during intercourse
  • burning during or after urination

You must seek medical help when you experience vaginal symptoms because it may be related to health issues which left untreated, can permanently damage your reproductive organs or lead to infertility.
Besides, you should take care of your health overall. Certain conditions such as a weakened immune system, uncontrolled diabetes can negatively impact your vaginal health and increase the risk of yeast infections and UTIs.

Related: What Causes Vaginal Dryness

References

1-https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/douching#:~:text=The%20word%20%22douche%22%20means%20to,in%20a%20bottle%20or%20bag.
2-https://www.health.harvard.edu/bladder-and-bowel/step-by-step-guide-to-performing-kegel-exercises

 

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About the Author

Hermione M.

My name is Hermione. I am the founder of WomenH and I write about women's health, wellness, mental health, and personal growth. I created this platform to inspire women to take care of themselves mentally, physically, and emotionally to become their best selves. Thank you for stopping by.

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